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Robert Hudson, 1st Viscount Hudson


Robert Spear Hudson, 1st Viscount Hudson, CH, PC (15 August 1886 – 2 February 1957)[1] was a British Conservative Party politician who held a number of ministerial posts during World War II.

He was the eldest son of Robert William Hudson who had inherited the substantial family soap business and sold it, and Gerda Frances Marion Bushell. Hudson was educated at Eton College and Magdalen College, Oxford. He entered the Diplomatic Service in 1911, becoming an attaché and first minister before entering politics.

Hudson was elected as Member of Parliament (MP) for Whitehaven in 1924 and served there until losing in 1929.[2] In 1931 he was returned for Southport.[2] He served in several ministerial posts, becoming a Privy Counsellor in 1938. From 1937 to 1940, Hudson served in the Department of Overseas Trade.

On 17 July 1939, Helmuth Wohlthat, Hermann Göring's right-hand man in the Four Year Plan organization, visited London to attend the meeting of the International Whaling Conference as part of the German delegation, and the next day, he and the German ambassador Herbert von Dirksen met Sir Horace Wilson, the Chief Industrial Adviser to the Government and one of the closest friends of Neville Chamberlain.[3] Hudson attended the meetings as an aide to Wilson.[3] On 20 July 1939, Hudson visited the German embassy to meet Dirksen and Wohlthat, acting on his own.[4] Hudson, an extremely ambitious man who loved intrigue, was hoping to score a great success that would help his otherwise stalled career.[4] Hudson kept detailed notes of his meeting at the German embassy, where accordingly to him, he proposed a solution to the Danzig crisis. Hudson's notes have him saying that in exchange for a German promise not to invade Poland and ending the Anglo-German arms race, there would be a plan for the industrialists running the heavy industry of Germany, Britain and the United States to work together in the economic development of China, Eastern Europe and Africa; of a loan in sum of hundreds of millions for Germany to be floated in the City and on Wall Street; and some sort of plan for the "international governance" of Africa, and he ended his account by saying that if only Hitler would just learn to think in economic terms, much was possible.[4]

After his meeting at the German embassy, Hudson was all account in a state of euphoria, and he asked a group of journalists to come to his house to tell them "off-the-record" about what he had done.[4] A preening Hudson-who believed that he had more or less single-handedly saved the world from the threat of another world war with his visit to the German Embassy-showed his notes of his visit to the embassy to the journalists, telling them it was he who just ended the Danzig crisis with his bold proposals for Anglo-German economic co-operation as Wohlthat was definitely interested in what he had to say.[4] Hudson asked the journalists not to publish this story yet, saying more time was needed for his plan to work as Wohlthat had to go back to Germany to report on his offer to Göring, who presumably would convince Hitler to accept it, but two of the journalists present took the view that this was not "off-the-record" and decided to publish the story.[4] On 22 July 1939, The Daily Telegraph and the News Chronicle both broke the story on their front-pages that Britain just had offered Germany a loan worth hundreds of millions of pound sterling in exchange for not attacking Poland.[4] The public reaction to this story was highly negative with much of the press calling Hudson's proposed loan "Danegeld".[4] In order to stop raids of the Vikings, the Kings of England had sometimes paid the "Danegeld" ("Dane money") to bribe the Danes not to attack. The term "paying the Danegeld" in England implies weakness and cowardice, that someone would rather bribe an enemy rather than stand up for himself. Much to Hudson's humiliation, Chamberlain told the House of Commons that no such loan was being considered and that Hudson was speaking for himself.[5]

In 1940, Hudson was appointed the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, a post he would hold until the 1945 election. In the opinion of Edward Turnour, 6th Earl Winterton, Hudson "was by far the best of Ministers of Agriculture in either war...he was determined to see that farmers and landowners alike utilised every acre of soil to help keep the nation from starvation".[6]

He had a particular interest in farming and was a member of the council of the Royal Agricultural Society.

Hudson was created Viscount Hudson in 1952.


  1. ^ "Peerages beginning with "H" (part 5)". Leigh Rayment's Peerage pages. Retrieved 21 April 2009.
  2. ^ a b Craig, F. W. S. (1983) [1969]. British parliamentary election results 1918–1949 (3rd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. pp. 246, 317. ISBN 0-900178-06-X.
  3. ^ a b Watt, D.C How War Came, London: Parthenon, 1989 pages 399.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Watt, D.C How War Came, London: Parthenon, 1989 page 400.
  5. ^ Watt, D.C How War Came, London: Parthenon, 1989 page 401.
  6. ^ The Rt. Hon. Earl Winterton P.C., Orders of the Day (London: Cassell, 1953), p. 272.

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